It is hard for me to comprehend or put my feelings into words on how an internationally recognised ambulance service can deny medical help to people just because of their religion. Having been so fortunate as to have volunteered for and currently volunteer with the Magen David Adom ambulances, it is troubling for me to see this absolute disregard for life and goes against every value that I have been brought up with and taught to uphold. The very ambulance service that we work with for transfers, advanced treatment and even takes care of their victims, denies medical attention to a Jew! How can we continue to work with them?
MDA treats all victims wether you are a Jew, Arab, Christian, Buddhist, black, white, any race religion or belief. We will treat you like our own! For this reason I have decided to speak out. Until this point, not many people have been told this story. Only some friends and relatives. I feel it a fitting time, in the midst of violence from all around the world that this story be told.
It was 12:00pm on the 26th of August, I was on shift in MDA Ashdod after having done a night shift that night. We heard a call over the speaker system in the station and it was for us, intensive care ambulance number 23. Having known the driver and paramedic from previous shifts I asked them if there was place for me in the morning and the driver, Hadar responded saying “for you there is always place”. I was the least experienced person on the ambulance with an advanced medic as the driver, a paramedic and another medic who was a teacher and had been in MDA for 2 years. I was just a 18 year old from Perth, Australia who had done a 60 hour course 3 weeks before and a few shifts.
We got into the ambulance and left the station. I asked the other volunteer to look at the tablet and tell me what the call was about. He looked at me and told me that we were picking up a 17 day old baby from the border between Gaza and Israel. Shocked and suprised at the call, all that went through my mind was that I was the least experienced person here and most likely I would just watch what they were doing, and see how they deal with the situation. A great learning experience.
We continued on our journey to the Ashkelon station to pick up a special bed which contained an incubator which had a heating system, an oxygen supply and seals where just our hands would be inside and we would be able to help the baby. We swapped out the beds and made our way to the border. Once we arrived at the Erez border crossing we met 2 people from the Red Crescent who were to take the incubator and our baby ambo pump with them across the border to revive the baby. After about 25 minutes of waiting the Red crescent personnel returned. I straight away realised that one of the men was standing on the side of the incubator giving breaths to the baby which had been inter-bated and connected to the oxygen supply. Our paramedic approached them and took over giving the baby breaths whilst the other volunteer and I pushed the incubator towards the ambulance.
Once at the ambulance 2 of us had to slide the incubator bed in whilst the paramedic was walking on still giving the baby breaths. I stood back waiting for the other volunteer to get on when the paramedic said “Michael I want you to get on the ambulance and take over from me” from then on everything inside of me was telling me to freak out and that I’m not experienced enough for this. I had to remain calm and listen to everything the paramedic had to say. He told me to give the baby a breath using one or two fingers very softly every 3 seconds. If I did it to hard, I would burst the lungs and the baby would die, if I did it too soft, the baby would build up too much CO2 and could die. I started giving breaths and counting in my head. My heart was beating so fast it was hard to keep a steady 3 seconds and then breath. The grandmother of the child got in the front seat of the ambulance next to the driver. After gaining a steady pace the paramedic told me he would take over again whilst I checked the sugar level of the baby and attached a small monitor to the baby’s foot. The baby was so small that I was told by the paramedic to test the sugar level from the baby’s second foot. The sugar level was a bit high and I took over breathing again. The paramedic attached 4 electrodes attached to a monitor so that we could see a pulse and cardio gram. Now we started the journey to Barzilai hospital. I don’t know exactly how long the drive was, it felt like hours but was most likely between 30-45 minutes. The whole time, my job was to watch the baby’s chest rise every time I gave it a breath, and make sure I gave it a breath every 3 seconds. This felt like the longest 30-45 mins of my life.
Every second I was watching this baby thousands of things were flowing through my mind. My family, how innocent the baby was, how scary the situation was and the Arab Israeli conflict were just a few things that was running through my mind.
When we got to the hospital we went through the usual process. First the security check point. The guard opened the door and saw the grandmother wearing a full hijab and asked where the patient was from. The paramedic told him the patient and grandmother were from Gaza and the guard started screaming at the other security, the whole time I had to try and stay calm as my priority was the baby, I had to give breaths every 3 seconds and not hesitate at all. The security screamed at the paramedic saying that they need to search the whole ambulance and everyone on it, a process which would take hours. Time we did not have, we needed to get the baby inside the hospital as soon as possible so that we didn’t risk something happening to the baby and heaven forbid the baby’s death. We told the security that if he did not let us through the baby could die. He demanded that the grandmother gets out and has a full search and we would be let in straight away as there was a medical team waiting for us.
We got to the hospital and the paramedic took over breathing as we were going to be moving and have to still give breaths at the same time. The other volunteer and I took the incubator out of the ambulance. We entered the hospital to see a team of nurses waiting. We where pointed in the direction and were told once we got there it was the wrong place. We continued through the hospital and were pointed towards the right place. We were then told that the doctor was not yet there and the paramedic told me to take over the breathing again. The hospital nurses did the same tests as we had done on the ambulance once again. Pulse, blood pressure, sugar level and attached all of there monitors. The doctor finally arrived after another 20-25 minutes of giving breaths waiting. He told us that we were going to move to another location. He took over the breathing and I pushed the incubator to where he was telling us to go.
Whilst walking through the hospital people were looking what was a happening as there was a bit of noise and a lot of medical staff following behind. Whilst walking through the children’s intensive care area many of the mothers came out too see what was happening with this baby. I turned to the side to look at one of the mothers. She had her hair covered and I could tell that she was an observant Jew. I don’t know if anyone knew that the baby was an Arab but what I saw I will never forget. I saw the woman crumble to her knees as she saw what was going on and burst into tears. It was not her child, she did not know the child but she saw that the child was suffering and she became weak at her knees.
Once there the baby was transferred to the hospital bed and the equipment swapped to the hospitals, Our job was completed and it was now the job of the hospital and medical teams.
Looking at a 17 day old child who was unconscious and I was giving breaths, all that I wanted to tell myself and others was that no one can say that all Arabs are terrorists or all Arabs Born in Gaza are terrorists, because still today, that Arab baby who was Born in Gaza is the most innocent thing that I have ever seen in my entire life. I don’t know who his father was, who his mother was or anything about the family or the story, but what I can say, is that baby, 17 days old is 100% innocent.
I am a religious Jew who was wearing a kippa saving the life of an Arab baby from Gaza. This is who we are this is what Judaism should be. I’ve never felt so proud to be Jewish in my entire life. As Magen David Adom, we help everyone. Whether you are Jewish, Arab, Christian, Buddhist, or any religion, race and sex, we will treat you as our own!
This experience changed my life. It changed who I am and changed who I will be. It happened 3 months ago and still I can’t tell the story in a public forum without my eyes tearing and throat closing up. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in this amazing country we call home and to have had the opportunity to have worked alongside paramedics, drivers and other volunteers to try and make a difference even if it is the smallest difference. This is the difference between the Red crescent and Magen David Adom. We care about everyone, not just our own.